A smug satisfactory smile stretched across Baldwin’s handsome but menacing features as he surveyed his lavish surroundings;self-congratulation exuding from every pore. Tonight would be all about him, his ability to manipulate others, as months of meticulous planning came to fruition.
A couple of the scantily clad girls, all of Easter-European extraction, giggled in the corner. He scowled at them, when he realised they’d been helping themselves to the potent punch, intended for his esteemed guests.
With its final tune-up complete the band drifted off to get changed. Meanwhile, the experienced agency waiting staff were tinkering, adding the finishing touches to the thirty-foot table laden with some of the world’s finest food, specially imported for tonight’s soiree.
His gaze drifted out over the large terrace and he took in the incredible view; the view that had sold the chateau to him. A view that took in thirty acres of manicured lawns, bordered by hedges shaped like animals; luxurious surroundings more suited to royalty than a lad brought up, or rather dragged up, in the boarded-up slums of Salford, Manchester. A lad with a rap sheet longer than the Seine.
Most of his men were already standing in position, their weapons safely concealed beneath their smart tuxedos, they would be joined by the others once the limos arrived.
Baldwin glanced at his watch for the tenth time in as many minutes, his irritation bubbling just below the surface. The guests should have arrived at seven, a full ten minutes ago; where the bloody hell were they? He marched over to the window and craned his neck to look up the long tree-lined drive. Nothing, not a limo in sight, nothing but the grey gravel, glistening in the evening sun. It didn’t bode well, not in his book, anyway. His blood began to pump harder, faster so much so that the vein in his temple jutted out, just as it always did when something didn’t go according to plan. His plans.
‘Well?’ he asked, when Julio, his second in command, joined him at the window.
‘Nothing as yet, boss. Everything's ready though.'
‘That much I can see, you bloody moron. Now go and see what the fucking hold-up is. I want this evening to go smoothly. You understand, Julio, no cock-ups.'
'Yes, boss. I'll get onto it straight away.'
'Never mind, I'll see for myself, I know how those guys can twist you round their fingers.'
Baldwin stormed into the communications room located next door. The room was littered with pizza boxes and a bottle of scotch sat on the desk in front of his men. The three men, all built like bouncers, leapt to their feet. 'Look at the bloody mess in here. Did I say you could drink on duty? This is supposed to be serious business tonight. I'm warning you, fuck this up and you'll pay for it, with your lives. You got that? Now, what's the bloody hold-up?' his glare unnerved the men, and they nodded, like toys in the back of a car.
Baldwin stepped forward, a menacing look in his eyes, he stopped in front of the youngest of the three men, their noses a few inches apart, 'I said, have you got that, Benji?'
The man gulped, his eyes bulging with fear, he nodded again, 'Yes, boss, I got it.'
'This is your final warning, Benji. Screw this up and….' Baldwin left the sentence unfinished on purpose.
The new recruit backed away, and Baldwin let him go, for the time being; he’d had his eye on him for a while, and had come to the conclusion that the man's attitude stank. It hadn’t escaped him that the man thought highly of himself and enjoyed strutting around as if he owned the place, ‘Now, let’s start again, shall we? Tell me, what the hell is going on?' He sat on the corner of the desk, looking at the ten TV screens attached to the wall in front of him, each showing a different area of the chateau and its grounds.
'The limos called in a few minutes ago. They got held up a couple of miles up the road. They should be here within ten minutes,' Benji said.
'Make sure they are. I'm getting anxious and I don't need to tell you what that means, do I?'
The men nodded their understanding of the unspoken threat. His anxiety was notorious, and often resulted in bouts of violence. Despite his men having muscles ten times larger than their IQs, when Baldwin went on the rampage, they all turned into quivering wrecks.
With the threat still lingering in the air, Benji pointed to one of the screens, as a car pulled into the drive, 'Here comes the first lamb now.'
Relieved, Baldwin headed for the door, but stopped in the doorway, turned and issued a final warning, 'Remember what I said… any fuck-ups, and I'll personally cut off your balls and serve them to the pigs.'
Re-entering the Great Room Baldwin clicked his fingers and the band brought the room to life with one of his all-time favourite Jazz numbers.
Julio gathered the girls together to make sure they understood their roles for the evening. Several of the girls noisily smacked on their gum, no doubt bored of hearing the same instructions for the fifth time since arriving mid-afternoon, the plans were imbedded in their minds already. Baldwin made a mental note which of the girls he would punish later for showing him attitude.
An English butler announced the arrival of each guest in turn as they entered through the main doors. 'Mr Chang Foo, representing the Chinese Government.'
As each guest was announced Baldwin stepped forward, a false, welcoming smile lighting up his handsome face, his annoyance at their lateness forgotten, for now at least.
'Mr Yashicotin, representing the Japanese Government,' the butler announced, one of the young girls latched onto the dignitary after he had shaken hands with Baldwin and guided him in the direction of the free bar at the rear of the room.
When everyone was assembled, and the room was buzzing with excited chattering, Julio gave the signal for his men to take up their positions. The men who’d accompanied the limos drifted through the crowd and slotted into their allotted places, around the room, roughly six feet apart, with their weapons still concealed.
As per their instructions, the band stopped playing as soon as Baldwin appeared on the makeshift stage, the room erupted with loud applause as he stepped up to the microphone. Baldwin said, 'Good evening, Gentlemen, first of all let me tell you what a great honour it is to welcome you into my humble home,' he paused to accept the rapturous applause generously given by the audience, before continuing with his sucker-punch, ‘it has always been my ambition to become the world’s richest man, and now, with the help of you and your respective governments, I am in a position to achieve that ambition.’
As his eyes surveyed the crowd he noticed several of the brighter men in the group eyeing him with caution, their unease changed to alarm as his men took out their guns. ‘Now, now, gentlemen, settle down. There really is no need to be alarmed,' Baldwin addressed the audience in a singsong voice, 'Providing of course you co-operate.'
The Russian Finance Minister, his face flushed and contorted with rage, approached the stage; gesticulating with his hands and shouting in his native tongue.
Outraged by the man’s rudeness and mistimed rude outburst, Baldwin nodded to one of his men standing a few feet from the Russian, signalling for him to shut the man up.
Three shots echoed around the room and the Russian groaned.
Again, the Great Room fell silent.
The Russian groaned loudly, clutched his chest, and fell to the floor, his blood quickly making a pool next to him.
Several guests tried to escape out on to the terrace, but the armed men herded them back into the centre of the room.
Baldwin's calm, yet assertive voice rose above the commotion. 'Gentlemen, you disappoint me. I thought we were all getting along so well. It is unfortunate that our Russian friend chose to disrespect me, but I hope the rest of you will learn from his lesson. The ball, as they say, gentlemen, is in your court. Now, what is your decision, gentlemen? Am I to take it from your silence that the rest of you have no objections to helping me fulfill my ambition or…'
This time it was the Chinese Finance Minister who chose to interrupt his speech, yet another communist with balls, Baldwin thought, he approached the stage and mumbled, 'Robert, we are all friends here, we should discuss your ambition openly and frankly.'
Baldwin's smile vanished replaced by a look that clearly showed his dislike of being interrupted. The Chinese Minister, whose position gave him great power, visibly shrivelled in front of him. 'And what do you foresee the outcome being, Mr Foo?' Baldwin asked through clenched teeth.
Foo's body started to tremble, and he tried to take a step back, bumping into the pretty blonde Baldwin had supplied him with for the evening and finding Julio’s colt dug into the base of his back. Panicked the man started to run, but three shots from Julio’s gun prevented him from going more than a few paces. Foo let out an agonising cry and slumped as the impact of the bullets sent him sprawling to the newly polished floor like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
‘Is anyone else going to interrupt me? Speak up now; my patience is wearing thinner by the minute.'
The room remained silent.
Baldwin's triumphant laughter echoed round the enormous room, as he sensed his long awaited objective was about to finally materialise.
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Need a quick recipe to satisfy a hungry family?
Ginger Sponge Pudding is the most delicious microwave recipe. It has a wonderful taste of ginger which makes this recipe so exceptional.
Ginger Sponge Pudding
Ginger Sponge Pudding Ingredients:
5 pieces preserved ginger drained and sliced
2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup self raising flour sifted
1/2 cup caster sugar
Ginger Sponge Pudding Method:
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time then fold in the sifted flour and ground ginger.
Arrange the sliced ginger over the base of a greased 4 cup basin. Turn the pudding mixture into the basin over the ginger, smoothing the top.
Microwave uncovered for 3 minutes. Turn the bowl around and Microwave for a further 3 minutes. Leave the Ginger Sponge Pudding to stand covered for 2 minutes before turning it out. Serve hot with custard or whipped cream.
Serves: 4 Microwave Setting: High
Enjoy your freshly made Ginger Sponge Pudding!